After nearly 2 weeks of being house bound with a sick bub, we had actual human contact today!! Hurray for unexpected play dates!!
And even more hurray was that they stayed for 5pm dinner with Possum and I, wonderful company that was greatly appreciated. Legoman ended up having another late night at work, so like all good planners, I had a Plan B to fall back on. Leftovers. Our fridge was full to the brim of leftover mushroom mix from last night and curry from two nights ago. No point in making something new when there was so much food ready for the eating.
I gave roasting the mushroom mix a go. Not an improvement. But I was wondering if you could roast whole mushrooms and still fry up the capscium and onions… to try next time…
Nothing too exciting to report back about dinner. So I thought I might just give you a few hot tips I’ve learnt so far about meal planning. Please keep in mind we have a little family; me, Legoman and Possum (10 months old and doing baby led weaning). I’m also super new to this whole meal planning thing. There are people out there that have been doing it for years and would have some amazing knowledge to share (please do if you happen to be one of these wise people!).
- Always Have a Plan B: You can plan and plan until the cows come home. But sometimes life doesn’t give a hoot about your plans. This is where a well stocked pantry and freezer absolutely come in handy. In my pantry I ALWAYS have:
- Tinned tuna, tinned salmon, anchovies. These can be added to virtually anything (except milkshakes. Ew) and add some great protein and good fats to a meal. Anchovies add a great punch of flavour and most people won’t even notice that they’re in something.
- Stock. Either in liquid or powder form. Can give rice, pasta, couscous and other grains some extra flavour. Can also be used to make soups, curries and sauces. Just do not use a commercial stock to try and make a jus or reduction. Legoman will have to tell you a story about that one day. It involves him proposing and me catching a yabby.
- A variety of grains and pulses. A staple with which to build any meal.
- Frozen vegetables. Much can be said for frozen peas and corn! Add to lentils, tinned tomato and some onion and garlic and you have vegetarian bolognese sauce. Make pea fritters! Or corn fritters! Or just to be the only vegetable on your plate.
- Condiments. Mayo, mustard, balsamic vinegar, capers, olives, tomato relish.
- Good quality store bought pesto.
- Curry paste. I have about 4 different ones, but just have one as a back up. I have a killer curry recipe that uses masaman curry paste, red lentils and frozen peas. Delish!
- Coconut milk. To go with your curry paste 🙂
- Tinned tomatoes. With pasta, capers, garlic, anchovies and olives and you have a tasty pasta puttanesca!
- An excellent spice selection. Great to make curries, spice up roast vegetables, add to salads. The ones I use the most are cumin, coriander, cinnamon, garam masala, turmeric, cardamom, paprika.
- Frozen dinners. If you can, make a batch of something like spaghetti bolognese to have in the freezer as a back up. It’s very rare that I don’t want to eat a big bowl of homemade spag bol.
- Eggs. I nearly forgot to add them! Essential! Keep some bacon in the freezer and you will never be sad again.
- Cheese. Everything is better with cheese. Need I say more.
- Check the weather. The day that you sit down to write out your plan, make sure you do a 7 day forecast at the same time. I find it helpful to write it down on my actual plan template. I have made the mistake before of planning to make risotto on a 30 degree day, or salad on a 15 degree day. I use www.bom.gov.au for my weather updates.
- Know what is in season. This will save you a lot of money, plus your food will be more nutritious and taste better. It will also give your food life a nice rhythm that follows the seasons. For example, don’t plan a mango and avocado salad in winter. It will cost a bomb and be flavourless compared to if you made the same in the peak of summer.
- Synchronise diaries. Sit down with your family and figure out what is happening that week. You don’t want to be cooking something fancy if you’re home alone for dinner. I like to write down major events on the meal plan that gets stuck to the fridge.
- Always have a tried and tested recipe in there somewhere. This way if you’re trying out new things the rest of the week and they turn out to be as delicious as a hospital dinner, then you will still have something to look forward to and potentially make a double batch of later in the week.
- Use a printable template. I use this one.
- Take advantage of online food blogs and website for inspiration and suggestions. I also know there is a great selection of cookbooks at my local library, great for a cookbook junky like myself! Some of my favourites are 101 cookbooks and taste.com.au.
- Have one day dedicated to do your shopping. This will save you time and money.
- Consider having your final meal in your plan something that uses up any leftover fruit and veg in the fridge eg casserole, curry, frittata, pasta sauce.
I hope that is vaguely helpful to someone out there who is thinking about meal planning but not sure where to start. Personally I’m not a Monday is pasta, Tuesday is stirfry, Wednesday is steak… kind of person. I love trying new recipes and learning new skills in the kitchen and meal planning has been a fantastic way of achieving that whilst saving time and money for my little family.
Would love to hear what your experiences of meal planning has been and what are your pantry must haves.